Originally written on September 8, 2008
Our generation’s “D-Day” or Pearl Harbor is September 11, 2001. This day will resonate in our minds just as that fateful day had a lasting imprint in the minds of generations past. September 11, 2008 marked the 7th year of my re-birth. While many details of that day have escaped me through the years, I carry the lessons I learned daily.
For the first time, I looked death in the eye. Over the years, I experienced the death of close loved ones both young and old. However, I never pictured a time when I would not be on this earth and I lived life like I had all the time in the world. However, September 11, 2001 was a wake-up call. I realized I was on borrowed time and began to walk with a greater sense of purpose. I thought about the legacy I wanted to leave, all the things not yet accomplished, and having deeper, more meaningful relationships with people.
I often struggle with existential questions like, “what’s the meaning of life”, “do I really exist”, or “what is truth”. At times, these questions consume me and spin me into a non productive tailspin. But after September 11, 2001 I stopped asking and started doing. Focusing on the here and now and walking with a greater sense of purpose, I created a mission statement for my life. My mission was to live life to the fullest and to enrich the lives of others in the process. While I countered some level of success before September 11, 2001, I was not able to embrace it or quantify it because I landed on success haphazardly. Now, I am able to match each milestone with the effort and passion that went into achieving that success. Most rewarding is finding an old notebook outlining ideas or goals I set several years before and knowing that I have either crossed those items off the list or am in route to finishing them.
One of the hardest memories of September 11 was hearing my mother’s reaction when my boss called and told my family I was in the World Trade Center. My step father described her as so scared and nervous she was unable to hold a glass of water steady in her hand. That visual continues to invoke a stream of emotions within me. Losing a loved one or the thought of losing a loved one is difficult. However, a touch of comfort is added when the bereaved are able to look back and see the type of life one led.
In 2007, a colleague/sorority sister died suddenly in her early 40’s. As I sat at her funeral and read her obituary, I was amazed at how much this woman accomplished in her short life. While a sad and tragic event, I smiled on the inside and thanked God for the seeds he planted in her and in return, the seeds she was able to sow in various people. She had a solid purpose for her life, devoted her time and energy to various causes, and left a lasting impression in the hearts and minds of her peers, surrounding community, and family. To me, she is the epitome of what leaving a legacy means and I strive daily to walk in the footsteps of women like her.
Appreciation for life
After September 11, I began viewing people and life with a completely different lens. I transformed from having shallow, surface relationships with people to having deeper, more meaningful relationships. I let my guard down in order to let people in and cast some names into the sea of forgiveness. Over the years, massive weight has been lifted off of my shoulder. Not to say that new challenges have not risen, but I have carried those burdens differently and am still perfecting the “forgive and move on” aspect! There is just a tad more urgency in my interactions (some would say I can be a tad rash with regards to certain things) and I’ve become more deliberate in all that I do. I refuse to live with regrets anymore or to look back wishing I would have said, “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, or “I forgive you”.
I have witnessed that time is in fact precious. For me, it was only a matter of 30-45 minutes that saved my life. A few weeks ago, I saw a tag-line on my friends MySpace page and it read, “Making my wish lists into to do lists.” It was such a powerful statement and a wake-up call. I had been running in place for a while and needed to be re-energized. Often times, we become stagnant and complacent. While there will always be minor obstacles in the way (timing or lack of resources for example), we should never let those minor things get in the way of at least working towards our dreams and goals for we never know what tomorrow has promised.